Orange Order chief raises fears of stand-off
ORANGE Order chiefs used their only Republic of Ireland parade to warn of mass protests in the North if their members are prevented from walking though a nationalist area on Saturday.
The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, used the parade at Rossnowlagh, Co Donegal, at the weekend to invite President Michael D Higgins to next year's event.
More than 7,000 Orange Order members from Border counties and their supporters took part in the parade from the local hall to the area's surfing beach.
But Mr Stevenson's speech has sparked fears of another stand-off in Ardoyne spreading to the rest of the six counties with road closures and "civil disobedience" being urged by some unionist leaders.
He said the decision by the Parades Commission to re-route the Orange parade in Ardoyne was "disastrous".
"This followed on from the shambolic and ludicrous determination preventing Orangemen from dedicating an arch in memory of an esteemed past member in Portadown," he said.
"Grand Lodge is fully supportive of the united graduated response by unionism to this latest constraint on our legitimate cultural expression and traditions. Numerous other parades across Northern Ireland, as we know, also face continuing intransigent and deliberate opposition by republicans.
"We can't underestimate the seriousness of the situation but there is no doubt that unionism is stronger when it is united and speaking with one voice.
"I have called an emergency meeting of all County Grand Masters and District Masters from all over Northern Ireland to inform them of our course of action and our engagement with the leaders of unionism. This will take place over the coming days."
He said violence "should not prevail".
Earlier he said new relationships between the Irish Republic and Britain had shown it was time to invite the President to next year's Rossnowlagh parade.
"It is against this backdrop that I publicly invite the President of the Republic of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, to join us and witness for himself next year the colour and spectacle of the only Twelfth demonstration in this jurisdiction," said Mr Stevenson. "You will be made most welcome here in Rossnowlagh.
"In your inaugural speech, you spoke of a 'common shared future built on the spirit of co-operation', about 'equality' and 'respect for all'.
"What better way to make such words a reality by reaching out in a hand of friendship to the minority Protestant community in the Republic; the symbolism of which would have positive ramifications beyond the boundaries of Co Donegal."